HANOVER, N.H. - The Penn football team has endured some heartbreaking losses in the last year, and Saturday added another chapter to that legacy as the Quakers fell to Dartmouth, 21-13, at Memorial Field.
The Quakers looked like they were out of this one, down 21-6 with just three minutes to play. However, a frustrating outing nearly turned into an opportunity when the they scored with 2:17 to play, then recovered an onside kick.
Needing eight points to tie the Big Green, Penn drove 48 yards from its own 40 to the Dartmouth 12 and had first down with just seconds remaining. After spiking the ball to stop the clock on first down, Penn QB Bryan Walker threw a pass over the head of Braden Lepisto, and then hit Kyle Derham for six yards to the 6-yard line. On fourth down, it appeared Walker might have hit Dan Coleman in the end zone to cut the lead to two points. However, as the officials conferred on whether or not it was a catch, the decision was made that the ball hit the ground and was ruled incomplete.
That ended the rally, and Dartmouth only needed to take a knee to end the contest.
With the loss, Penn fell to 0-3 for the first time in Al Bagnoli’s 16-year tenure; Dartmouth, meanwhile, improved to1-2 on the young season. The game was the Ivy League opener for both squads.
Walker went the whole way at quarterback for Penn, and set a school record with 60 pass attempts. The old record was 55, set Oct. 9, 2004 by Pat McDermott at Bucknell. Walker completed 30 of the passes for a career-high 266 yards. He also ran for 61 yards on 11 carries.
Joe Sandberg returned to the lineup after missing last week’s game at Villanova, and carried 20 times for 80 yards. He also caught a team-high eight passes for 28 yards. However, he was injured midway through the fourth quarter when he took a helmet to the lower back and sat the last few minutes.
Kyle Derham caught a career-best six balls for 55 yards ,while Tyler Fisher had five receptions and Marcus Lawrence had three catches.
Dartmouth which ended a nine-game losing streak to Penn with the win drew first blood late in the first quarter, putting together a 12-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Hudson Smythe rushing in from one yard out.
Penn responded on the very next drive, putting together an 11-play drive that was finished when freshman Andrew Samson hit a 23-yard field goal.
Later in the quarter Penn drew within one point when Samson rocked a 45-yard field goal through the uprights, capping a seven-play drive just before the end of the half. It was the longest field goal by a Penn kicker since Evan Nolan knocked home a 49-yarder against San Diego on Sept. 18, 2004.
Dartmouth began the second half with the ball, but Chris Wynn made a great effort to pick off Dartmouth QB Tom Bennewitz on just the second play of the half. Penn could not get anything going off that play, and when Dartmouth got the ball back they quickly went 66 yards for a score and a 14-6 lead. The big play was the scoring play, as Bennewitz found Brian Evans for 35 yards.
Penn got the ball back and drove down to the Dartmouth 17-yard line. However, the Quakers could get no closer, and emerged with no points when Samson pushed his 34-yard field goal to the right.
Dartmouth started with the ball on the 20-yard line after that missed kick, and before the Big Green even got a snap off they had been backed up all the way to their own 3-yard line thanks to three-straight penalties. However, Nate Servis rushed for 14 yards on first down, and then Bennewitz hit Servis for 14 more yards, and suddenly Dartmouth was out of trouble and on its way to paydirt.
The drive covered 97 yards, and ended when Bennewitz took advantage of a slip by a Penn defender. That freed up Eric Paul, who caught the pass along the right sideline and dove into the end zone before Penn could catch him.
Down, 21-6, Penn began playing with urgency. After a three-and-out, the Quakers defense pinned Dartmouth deep in its own territory, forcing a punt that went just 31 yards to the Big Green 36-yard line.
Penn got a first down when Walker found Nick Cisler for 11 yards. However, he followed that up by throwing three incompletions and being caught for a five-yard loss, giving the ball back to the Big Green.
The defense again came through; on Dartmouth’s third play of the drive, Penn cornerback Joey Brown intercepted Bennewitz and returned the ball to the Big Green’s 47-yard line.
Penn drove again, this time getting to third down on Dartmouth’s 9-yard line before Walker passes to Lawrence and Josh Koontz fell incomplete.
Dartmouth got the ball out to its own 21-yard line but got no further, and the pun went just 21 yards to give Penn the ball at the Big Green 42-yard line with 4:24 to play. This time Walker hit Lawrence and DiMaggio to get the ball to the 21-yard line, and then on third down he hit Derham for eight more yards. However, on fourth-and-2 at the Dartmouth 13, he again looked for Derham but the pair could not connect.
The defense again stood tall, forcing a three-and-out, and then handed the offense a gift by blocking the punt and downing it at the 26-yard line.
It did not take Penn long to find the end zone; Walker found Derham for 17 yards, and then two plays later he hit Lepisto for nine yards and a score to make it 21-13 with 2:17 to play.
Samson then kicked off, and lined a ball that ricocheted off the ground, hit a Dartmouth player and bounced into the arms of Gregory Ambrogi.
It looked like Penn’s final drive would stall out quickly, as Walker’s attempt to Lawrence fell incomplete. However, Dartmouth was called for pass interference on the play, and the drive continued on the Big Green 49-yard line.
Walker rushed for 17 yards on first down, getting the ball to the 32-yard line, and then after incompletions on first and second down he hit Derham for eight yards to the 24-yard line. On fourth-and-2, Walker ran for 12 yards to the 12-yard line, setting up the final sequence of downs.
Penn is back in action next Saturday at home, taking on Georgetown in the final non-conference game of the 2007 season.